When Bolton Wanderers were forced to bid farewell to talismanic forward Zach Clough in January, their promotion hopes appeared to disappear with him. And, just over a month after the diminutive attacker left for Nottingham Forest, The Trotters dropped nine points off the top following four games without a win.
Therefore, it’s a credit to the character of Phil Parkinson’s side, who were only saved from administration in November, that they have now clawed their way back up to second place, a point above Fleetwood Town with a game in hand thanks to three successive wins including a 4-2 thrashing of the Cod Army at Highbury.
And Adam Le Fondre, who looked lost initially after the departure of key creator Clough, has been at the centre of Bolton’s recent rejuvenation. He’s scored four in three now, the 30-year-old enjoying his most prolific spell of the season after arriving on loan from Wigan in January.
However, this may not have been possible without one of the more understated members of Bolton’s squad. Le Fondre is a player who thrives on the service of others, a true penalty box poacher. So the loss of Clough, a player with the ability to thread the ball through the eye of the needle, appeared to render his presence in the team somewhat futile.
Until Gary Madine offered a timely reminder of his worth that is. The 6ft 3ins targetman was battered from pillar to post in Saturday’s 2-1 win against Northampton but he almost sacrifices himself for the good of Le Fondre.
Holding up the ball, linking the play and flicking it on for his partner, Madine appears the perfect foil for the former Reading poacher.
In its simplest form, Phil Parkinson has adopted a variation of the ‘big man, little man’ partnership. And its reviving Bolton’s season.